During the pandemic, the ‘Everyone In’ scheme has brought 15,000 people off the streets and into temporary accommodation, but as the initiative draws to a close, what will happen next to those most in need?
As lockdown began, the government, charities, local authorities and the hospitality sector banded together to offer safety to thousands of rough sleepers, many of whom were housed in hotels and hostels across the country.
However as this scheme draws to a close and life for many begins to return to ‘normal’, what will happen to those most in need?
Alexia Murphy, executive director of operations at Depaul UK, a charity offering accommodation to homeless people across the UK, told NewStart about the progress made in hotels in Manchester and London: ‘When the call came at the beginning of April to open the hotels, the whole operation was very well orchestrated and very well supported.
‘In respect of bringing people indoors, keeping them safe and mobilising the services they needed, in both Manchester and London we had fantastic support from local authorities and agencies working together.
‘In London, our first hotel had 148 beds, which filled up over the course of 3 days. It was a mammoth task to bring everyone in, log who they were and what they needed, and facilitate the extra resources.’
Despite the success of this scheme, it has been clear from the offset that a more permanent solution must be found.
As Alexia Murphy said: ‘In our Manchester scheme, local authorities all took responsibility for the people in our care. We had around 40 people living in the hotel, and every single one of those had a resettlement offer and moved positively onwards.
‘Some went on to supported living, some to social or privately rented tenancies. Our London hotel was open for 3 months and closed in July; we settled 59 people, and moved 70 with us to a new hotel.’
Whilst the majority of charities were in strong agreement on the positive impact of the Everyone In scheme, it is clear that meaningful progress will rely on systemic change and protective, inclusive legal infrastructures.
This particularly applies for those who have no recourse to public funds, for example, due to immigration status, or those who are deemed to be not in priority need, or not classed as vulnerable enough to access support.
Caroline Bernard, head of policy and communications at Homeless Link, the membership charity for frontline homelessness services, said: ‘Homelessness services across England responded swiftly to the pandemic, adapting and innovating to protect the people they support. The decisive action from government and charities demonstrated that the right level of focus and investment can significantly reduce rough sleeping.
‘With hotels reopening to the public, many people have been moved to interim accommodation, and funding is in place as part of the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme to house people until March 2021 and to provide 3,300 more on homes with support.
‘However, it is imperative that that appropriate long-term accommodation and support funding is in place as soon as possible for everyone who needs it, to give the individuals a sense of security and trust, and enable them to recover and move on with their lives.’
As we move forward, legislation will have to play a part in ensuring a fairer and accessible system.
In an open letter signed by over 40 charities and services, the government has been called on to enact emergency homelessness legislation; this would include removing the ‘no recourse to public funds’ for 12 months, introducing a duty, backed by funding, for local authorities to provide everyone affected by homelessness with temporary accommodation, and further protecting people from forced evictions (currently set to end in September).
Caroline Bernard said: ‘It will also be important that we tackle the systemic factors causing homelessness, including the under-supply of affordable housing, health inequalities and a precarious welfare system to prevent more people from losing their homes in the first place.
‘There must be no return to business as usual, with support for people with no recourse to public funds and a commitment to integrate public health and clinical input into homelessness support, to achieve the most successful outcomes for individuals.’
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